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28                                     VERDICT  OX INDIA
xould laugh at it, the Muslims usould despise it, ihe Princes would
regard it as a form of lunacy S
It was the reference to the Princes which caused the bitterest
taunts and the wildest accusation. President Roosevelt, sitting
in a plain wooden chair, vas contrasted with Linlithgow, lolling
on a throne surrounded by bejewelled satellites. What all these
critics ignored v;as chat the Princes existed, that they always had
existed, and that the very fact of their existence was in itself
sufficient justification for the size and splendour of the Viceregal
weaage.
Let us malce this point quite clear.
A number of Indian commentators write as though the Princes
did not erasfc, or as if they were* at the most, a bunch of rich idlers,
invented by the British, for their own nefarious purposes.
This is a fabulous distortion of the facts. The Princes exist to
the 2:rtent of ruling over nearly two-fifths of the entire territory
of India and their subjects number no less than eighty millions.
Moreover, their States, which number over five hundred, are
sewn so firmly into the main fabric by the threads of history and
of self-interest that any attempt to tear them out might cause the
•whole thing to fall apart. Some of these States, of course, are
very small; they shine on India's quilt like tiny specks of gold ; but
others are nearly the size of France, governed by rulers with wide
powers and lusty ambitions, who have not the faintest intention of
retiring without a fight to the death. Many writers lightly assume
that Gandhi is the sworn enemy of the Princes. If they turn to
page 21 of Gandhism; Nationalism; Socialism, by M. N. Roy
(published by Bengal Radical Club), they will find an account of
an interview in which Gandhi declared his determination to
defend the Princes and landlords by all means should ever any
attempt be made to confiscate their property by violence.
Our critics speak as if we had invented these fabulous persons.
They speak as though we bad loaded them with their incredible
jewels, stocked their harems, and caparisoned their elephants.
We did nothing of the sort. We found all these things intact,
functioning as they had functioned throughout the centuries;
the Princely pantomime was already in full swing when the
British broke insto the Indian theatre.